Carrollton Road Races: What lap are you on?

I decided to run the marathon in the Carrollton Charity Road races in Saginaw, MI simply because I wanted to run a summer marathon somewhere in my Great Lakes sales territory. My friend from college, Mike, had just moved to Grand Rapids and agreed to train and race with me. With all of these things falling into place, why look at the course, right? Right?!

Mike, Jen (spectator extraordinare from Tybee and Charlotte), and I arrived at packet pick-up the morning of. As we claimed our (awful looking!) shirts, a volunteer informed us that there would be an early start in...oh....5 minutes. Huh?! In a split "game time decision", Mike and I started early- after all, then we couldn't sit around and get nervous for an hour, right? Right?!

I was in denial about the course until mile 8ish. The race begins with a 2 mile loop followed by the SAME 3 mile loop & wait for it, that's right, 8 times. With NO water stops, mile markers, or time keepers on the course I kept thinking, 'This cannot be for real!' There are very few local spectators; however, the small loop allowed Jen (i.e., our personal fan club) and a few random enthusiastic onlookers to stay in one place and see us run by multiple times! It was great to see OUR support and see her often! Jen even went to a nearby grocery store for several of my mid-race requests (Gatorade, flex all, batteries for my headphones) during the race and STILL made it back to see me on the next loop.

Everyone knows that a marathon isn't exactly a spectator sport, but in a way, this one was! From the Boston qualifiers to the weaker runners, the back and forth allowed me to see runners of all levels DURING the race. This was incredibly inspirational for me and somewhat helped the mental toughness and positive attitude needed to run in Saginaw.

Our splits/loops were recorded by a volunteer who asked, by show of hands, 'what lap you are on.' The race finish (and last of the repetitive loops) ended in a different area. Several runners, myself included, did not account for the change (as it is not marked) and ran away from the end of the race- agghhhhh! I had to turn around and run an extra quarter mile back to the actual finish., where I clocked a 4:35:04...almost 4 minutes faster than my last race in Charlotte! Mike finished only a few minutes later and, minus bloody nipples (who knew?!), felt great. Right?! ;)

Charlotte Observer Marathon

Wow- I grew up only 30 minutes away, but never knew that Charlotte would be sooo cold. It was approximately 15 degrees with the wind chill factored in when I arrived the morning of the race with Mom and Jen, my (brave!) spectators. This would be my 2nd marathon, but the first one I had trained for individually...I was kind of doing it just to prove that the first wasn't a "fluke" and I really could run 26.2 miles without a partner.

The water stations were consistent and the race was very organized. There were tons of people cheering runners on from cars in addition to the spectators that came out the support the race. I was amazed at how friendly the volunteers were...and pleasantly surprised at how CUTE the police officers working the road blocks were. Of course I couldn't say anything ("Hi, I'm Suzy. Uh, I'm usually not this sweaty. You single? Meet me in a few hours?!"), but the eye candy was nice and I'm considering spending my Saturday nights in Charlotte instead of Greensboro!
The 2004 race offered a new course- one loop around center city, then a rolling course in residential areas with an upward climb back to uptown (is that why they call it UPtown?!). I did not train properly for the hills. I did enough long runs, but they were not hilly enough for this race. Myself included, I think the hills surprised a lot of people. Why? Because they are not obvious hills, instead they are l-o-n-g grades that you can't see driving around, but THEY ARE THERE and MY QUADS FOUND THEM.
As if the hills weren't enough of a challenge, it began snowing around mile 16, just about the time I found myself running solo. It was hard to keep momentum (or find ANY wind break) when other runners are far away. Nonetheless, I finished with a 4:39:04 chip time, just shy of Oprah Winfrey's 4:35 in Chicago but a 40 minute improvement over my first race. Even better, I proved that I can run 26.2 miles by myself!